For all of the amazing shopping, dining and art galleries that Eureka Springs is known for, it is not often that people think of lions and tigers in the town. When visiting Eureka Springs, be sure to take an afternoon and visit one of the nation’s largest facilities of its kind, the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. Over 100 cats and six Black Bears can be seen on the property today. A tour at the refuge will provide education about their mission and about the care of the big cats on site.
The Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was first started back in 1992. The Jackson family, Don, Hilda and Tanya acquired their first lion, Bum, back in 1978. Five years later, Sheila, another lion was brought into their family. In December of 1991, breeder Katherine Twiss showed up at the Jackson household with 42 big cats in cattle trailers needing a home for them as she was on the run from the law. A family friend of the Jackson’s owned a 500 acre ranch in Eureka Springs. At the time, this was a temporary home for the big cats but the property was later purchased and is the home of what is now Turpentine Creek.
Many people take on big cats to live in their homes or backyards and feel they are up for the challenge of taking care of such big creatures and quickly realize that they are unable to do so. That is where Turpentine Creek comes in. Animals can be brought in and rescued and taken care of in the proper way. A waiting list has even been created to accommodate the rescues. There are over a dozen wildlife sanctuaries around the country for big cats but Turpentine Creek is one of the largest facilities of its kind.
Turpentine Creek’s mission is to provide a lifelong refuge for all rescued animals with the care, safety and well-being of the animals being the number one priority. All animals are required to be checked out by a veterinarian before being transported and then checked again by the veterinarian at the refuge. The animals are then spayed or neutered and then kept in quarantine for at least four to six weeks before being integrated with the other cats. The ultimate goal of the refuge is to have the cats housed in natural habitats.
Many events are held at Turpentine Creek throughout the year. The next event which will be on March 22nd is the Annual Kite Festival. This is a free family event with regular admission to the park. The day will include kite flying, vendors, contests and other family activities. Proceeds will go towards the ongoing care for the big cats at the refuge. Other events throughout the year include Cats at the Castle Dinner in April, a Father’s Day picnic in June and the Howl-O-Ween Spooktacular in October.
Turpentine Creek is open every day of the year with the exception of Christmas day. Summer hours are from 9:00am to 6:00pm and winter hours from 9:00am to 5:00pm. An adult all-day pass is $20.00, $15.00 for teens and $10.00 for veterans, senior citizens, and children 4-12 years old. There are self-guided and guided tours daily and feeding time is a sight not to be missed. Over 1,000 pounds of meat is prepared and distributed.
When visiting Turpentine Creek, be sure to check out Arsenic and Old Lace Bed and Breakfast which is just ten miles down the road. This bed and breakfast is perfect for romantic getaways for two and can even accommodate family reunions. No matter the size, the five guest suites and common areas provide plenty of room to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Arkansas hills. The inn is currently offering some great winter specials to help save on your reservation this season. For room availability and reservations, click here.
Photo courtesy of PS-OV-ART